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Aguero & Messi - Argentina's perfect partners

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Tim Vickery | 08:34 UK time, Monday, 27 August 2012

Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini was frustrated when his striker Sergio Aguero was called up by Argentina for a friendly against Germany two weeks ago.

And he is exasperated to see Aguero's name in his country's squad for the coming World Cup qualifiers.

The trip to Germany came just a few days before City began their defence of the Premier League title. And Aguero's injury means that he has limited chances of being fit in time to play for his country next month. A journey across the Atlantic is quite possibly not an ideal part of the player's recovery. Mancini's position, then, is totally understandable.

But so too is that of Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella.

His complaint is that of all those in charge of contemporary national teams - the lack of time with his players means that he can hardly function as a coach. He becomes a selector. In the quest to form a cohesive group, any time he can spend with his players has to be utilised.

It hardly matters to Sabella that Aguero is unlikely to be ready for Argentina's next game, at home to Paraguay on 7 September - the player is suspended. But everything will be worthwhile if four days later Aguero is able to come off the bench and make an impact on the tricky tie away to Peru.

That is exactly what Aguero did against Colombia last November.

Injury had kept him out of the first three rounds of the 2014 qualifiers, and Argentina had made a desperate start in his absence. They had lost to Venezuela, drawn at home to Bolivia and were a goal down to Colombia when Aguero was introduced at half time.

It proved a turning point. Aguero's presence opened up space for Lionel Messi. Both were on target as Argentina struck back to win 2-1. Messi has not stopped scoring since. In the next game he weighed in with a hat-trick as Switzerland were beaten 3-1 in a friendly.

Messi and Aguero were among the scorers as a dangerous Ecuador side were thrashed 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier. Photo: Getty

Messi then added three more in a 4-3 triumph over Brazil, before scoring another (and missing a penalty) in that recent 3-1 win in Germany. So since Aguero's introduction on that hot afternoon in Colombia, Argentina have managed 16 goals in four and a half games, with Messi scoring nine of them. It is little wonder that Sabella wants Aguero around.

When Messi has failed to live up to expectations with the national team it has not been hard to find an explanation - the absence of his Barcelona team-mates. There is no doubt about it - Argentina cannot currently come up with an equivalent to Daniel Alves, the Brazilian attacking right-back whose thrust and threat help create space for Messi when he plays for his club. And although for Argentina Messi is forging a promising relationship with revitalised midfielder Fernando Gago, it is highly unlikely to prove as productive as the Barca link up with Xavi.

The beauty of the combination with Aguero is that it has the potential to outdo anything Messi has ever had with his club. Not with Samuel Eto'o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or David Villa has Messi combined as naturally as he does with Aguero. The pair shared a room during the 2005 World Youth Cup in Holland. They struck up a friendship, and their understanding translates to the football field.

Against Switzerland last February or in the second half in Germany two weeks ago Messi and Aguero exchanged passes at dazzling speed and bewildering angles. It has perhaps taken Argentina too long to make this relationship the central axis of their attack - and even now the question has not been fully resolved.

A front two of Messi and Aguero lacks the penalty area presence of a traditional centre forward. Gonzalo Higuain can supply this - leaving the problem of fitting all three into a 4-4-2, the system Sabella has chosen as his base formation. The presence of the ultra-attacking Angel Di Maria in the midfield quartet makes the puzzle harder to solve.

At home to Ecuador, Sabella was happy to start with his front trio. Otherwise, either Aguero or Higuain have had to come off the bench. Last time out against Germany Aguero was brought on at half time. It may not have happened had the Germans not already had a man sent off.

It is entirely possible that the option for 4-4-2 is Sabella's way of playing safe during the notoriously difficult qualification campaign. By his own admission he is a pragmatist, willing to change to suit the circumstances. And if the balance of his attack is giving him headaches, the same is surely more true of his defence.

He has gone with a new pair of centre backs, Federico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay. Neither is particularly quick, and their reluctance to be drawn out wide can open up huge gaps between them and the full-backs. This cost one goal against Germany and could easily have cost more.

One possible response is a back three with Javier Mascherano using his Barcelona experience and dropping into the defensive line. This could even be the explanation for the recall of Fabricio Coloccini - Sabella recently remarked that the Newcastle defender could be used as part of a three-man defence.

It is entirely possible that Alejandro Sabella will not settle on the shape of his World Cup side until a few months before the tournament. Before that, to the deep regret of Roberto Mancini, he has clearly concluded that time together with all of his players is too good an opportunity to be wasted.

Send your questions on South American football to and I'll pick out a couple for next week. From last week's postbag:

I'm a fan of Peruvian centre forward Paolo Guerrero. His hold up play reminds me a bit of Didier Drogba with his willingness to chest a ball down and hold off defenders in traffic. How has he been doing in his first campaign for Corinthians and does he and his fellow Peruvians still have a realistic shot at getting hot and being a factor in South American qualifying?
Aaron Hall

He hasn't done much for Corinthians so far, but it's early days, and I see him as a hugely significant signing - this is a 28-year-old, not a veteran looking to wind down his career with a tropical adventure.

Peru have a lot to do in World Cup qualification. They won their first game but have lost the next four. They have, though, been very unlucky with injuries. If everyone stays fit they have a chance, but they must start picking up points soon. The next two rounds are vital. Peru are at home for both, Venezuela first up and then Argentina. Anything less than four points will leave them a long way off the pace.

What can you tell us about Angelo Henriquez of Universidad de Chile who has just signed for Manchester United?
Shayak Banerjee

An 18-year-old striker of great promise, quick feet, sharp around the box and very mature and calm with his finishing. He has had an interesting year - at the start of 2012 he was playing for the youth team against Universidad de Chile's starting line-up, he impressed the coach so much that he won an instant promotion and he kept on scoring.

He has been on United's radar screen for a couple of years already, so I'm sure they have a very clear idea of what they are getting. The obvious fear is losing momentum by spending too long on the bench, because he's probably too lightweight to make much of an impression on the Premier League at this stage.


  • Comment number 1.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 2.


    What about Tevez? He's playing class at the moment...

  • Comment number 3.

    Last week a number of posters took issue with my claim that of the 2014 contenders, Spain and Argentina look like the outstanding two teams. A number of you told me that Spain are out there in a class of their own.

    My claim is based on how the teams are shaping up for 2014. Spain's next generation was found wanting at the Olympics, and can now be discounted. That leaves their wonderful midfield intact, but Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and even Cesc Fabregas were part of Spain's 2006 World Cup squad, and all bar Fabregas will be thirty-something in Brazil. Franz Beckenbauer last week admitted that he has never heard of Javi Martinez, and having watched his inability to pass, lack of speed and positional unawareness at the Olympics I can see why. At 66 Beckenbauer is probably still a better player than Martinez.

    Argentina's likely squad for 2014 is more promising than any previous one they have fielded at a World Cup. Look at the players, but more importantly their ages in 2014:

    Aguero (26) Messi (27)

    Di Maria (26) Pastore (25) Lavezzi (29)

    Gago (28) Banega (25) Mascherano (30)

    The frightening thing is not just the quality but the fact that, in contrast with Spain, these players should be at the peak of their powers in 2014.

    And with Gago and Banega forming a defensive midfield axis at Valencia, Sabella can solve his defensive problems by withdrawing Mascherano to centre-back, alongside Garay or Fernandez or even Coloccini.

    I still bracket Spain at the very highest level for 2014, but the Olympics really complicated the task ahead of them. Del Bosque now knows that he has no young generation to turn to, and that he has to try to defend the World Cup with the oldest side in World Cup history.

    And one last mention of the Olympics. In case you haven't noticed, Argentina's 2014 squad essentially is the Beijing 2008 Gold Medal winning team.

    Tim's point about Sabella needing to assemble his squad whenever and wherever he can is well-meant, but this is not a new squad.

    Messi, Aguero, Gago, Garay, Zabaleta and Biglia were in the 2005 World Under-20 team which won the Final v Nigeria by 2-1.

    Almost all the current players were in the 2008 Olympic team, which won the Final v Nigeria by 1-0.

    In fact, Argentina's senior squad has in effect been playing together for practically as long as Spain's.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great column as usual Tim.

    I was in South America a couple of years ago and was fortunate to go to a couple of games. One game which stuck with me was when I went to watch Universidad de Chile. Their fans were so passionate and noisy despite the ridiculous 3pm kick off in searing sun but the stadium attendance barely touched the sides of the Olympic stadium in Santiago.

    With the recent influx of superstars into South American football are match attendances rising or is TV still the major force?

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Tim,

    Good article.

    The Messi/Aguero-partnership has a Romario/Bebeto-esque quality to it that I really like. Also, it pleases me that the careers of Garay and Gago are now back on track. I had high hopes for both a few years ago, but neither seems to have done himself any favours by moving to Madrid. Garay may not be the fastest, but I still think he's Argentina's best bet for developing a top-class centre-back. (Remember, Roberto Ayala - inarguably the finest South American defender of his generation - had had a stop/start career until joining Valencia at the same age.)

    A question on Brazilian football: I hear Ronaldinho has buckled down in Belo Horizonte, actually attends training on a regular basis and has been playing (more than) decently as Atletico Mineiro charged to the top of the table. Is there truth to the hype? And - assuming his performances have been as good as some claim - does he have any hope of ever being recalled by Brazil?

  • Comment number 6.


    So you're back on again trying to put Spain down...


  • Comment number 7.


    What a load of absolute drivel.

    Where I accept that Spain played poorly at the World Cup- their youth teams have still out performed every other youth side in the world for at least a decade now. One poor tournament does not make a trend.

    As you can see here: the Spanish have had very little experience at full international level yet- and even with an ageing midfield- Spain won't lose Xavi, Xabi, AND Iniesta. And simply because Beckanbeur doesn't know who Javi Martinez is a complete non-argument... care to explain why Barca tried to spend €30m on him this summer?

    By your theory, Mexico, South Korea and Japan will be likelier to win the WC in 2014 than Spain...

    Either way, you've got an agenda you're trying to defend and the stats don't support it.

  • Comment number 8.

    Argentina as far as i can remember have always got quality players going into any world cup and they have consistently flopped; a typical case in point was the 2002 world cup.

    Spain do have a good generation of young players coming up, just because they did not do well at an Olympic game does not change that. Most of those young players at the Olympics play regular football for their respective clubs and they can only get better in two years time, although i doubt if they will be the eventual winners.

    In any case, Olympic success has no bearing on the eventual winners of a world cup. Look at Argentina, Nigeria and Brazil, Over the last two decades, the first two have chalked successes at the Olympics with no world cup success to show for it, but that the opposite is the case for the latter.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's an anti-Spanish agenda for me to bracket Argentina with Spain as the teams to beat in 2014? Wow!

    I've already shown how the Argentina team will be all in their mid-to-late twenties, apart from the 30 year old Mascherano.

    Here is how Spain's possible first choice eleven would compare:

    Casillas (33)
    Ramos (28) Puyol (36) Pique (27) Alba (25)
    Busquets (25) Xabi Alonso (32)
    Xavi (34) Iniesta (30) Silva (28)
    Villa (32)

    That is an awfully old team to play seven matches in a month.

    Part of the beauty of international football is that even the best teams require constant gradual renewal. And when Jordi Alba and Busquets are the only players under 27 in the starting eleven - and with 6 out of 11 over 30 - then there is a problem brewing.

    You all know my fondness for Uruguay, and they have a similar problem with both their defensive midfielders plus the centre-back Lugano plus Forlan leaving a very old-looking central spine to the team. The Olympics were supposed to offer a new set of options - as they were for Spain - and it didn't work out.

    Lastly, @7 David_Beckham's_Haircut are teasing me about my respect for Mexico, South Korea and Japan. And possibly with good reason.

    I watched Japan's recent World Cup qualifier in Brisbane, and I'll make a big, big claim here. I know that the English Premiership is one of the world's top leagues, but since the decline of Cole and Gerrard and Terry I don't believe that England has a better national team than Mexico or South Korea or Japan. In fact, I suspect that the only England players who would be certain to get into the Japan starting eleven are Joe Hart and possibly Wayne Rooney. The first two players I would want from either side would be Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, both of whom I believe function at a significantly higher level than any current England player is capable of.

    People are awfully slow to notice the passage of time. I don't dispute that Ashley Cole used to be the world's best left-back between around 2004 and 2008, but there are still posters on BBC blogs who think he still is now, when I seriously doubt that he remains in the world's top dozen left-backs.

  • Comment number 10.

    A good blog Tim.

    It's the classic club vs country argument and these days clubs (certainly the big European clubs) seem to have the upper hand.

    To be honest I think having international matches in the middle of a season is a bad idea. It is especially problematic for those players who play for clubs in Europe but are not European as it often means very long journey times.

  • Comment number 11.


    If you genuinely think that Spain will have that starting 11 at the 2014 World Cup then you are an idiot.

  • Comment number 12.

    By the way @8 kngjrdn

    There is a reason why Nigeria (and Cameroon) have underachieved after Olympic success.

    The rest of the Olympic squads are indubitably Under-23 plus three overage players. Even Sandro and Leandro Damiao are not seriously considered to be older, even though they each look closer to their forties than their teens.

    In contrast, if you look at Nigeria's 1996 and 2008 Gold and Silver medallists you will find that almost every player passed his peak in European club football by the age of around "25". Yakubu Aiyegbeni somehow lost two years in age between the 2000 Olympics, according to the official age recorded by his club at the time in Israel and the age he now uses.

    I am in now way accusing anyone of being an age-cheat. But it's strange that Messrs Babayaro and Kanu, to name but two, achieved more between the ages of "17" and "20" than they did from the age of "24" onwards.

  • Comment number 13.


    I don't dipsute that. Certainly, being a Scot I can appreciate the example left by quality football played by nations with diminutive height...

    However, your argument about the Spain squad is largely moot. Casillas at 33 is meaningless, Puyol at 36 is already on his way out of international football... Xavi at 34 will be pushing playing 90' in every game but when you consider that Spain already have the likes of Cazorla, Martinez, Mata, Thiago, Pedro etc who will all be the right side of 30 come 2014 you have to repsect that although the 2012 winning team will be slightly older, the then current squad will likely be just as strong...

    Either way, I'm encouraged by the way international football is being played these days. Uruguay, Mexico, South Korea and Japan all have fast flowing football played the way it is meant to be. While England and my beloved Scotland seem to have next to no clue as to how to emulate this divergence in the world order...

    Saor Alba gu brath

  • Comment number 14.

    @9 yakubusdiet

    On Spain.

    Of your "possible first choice eleven" Puyol will definitely not be playing in 2014 and Villa may not be. I'm not sure who their right back will be but even Arbeloa at 31 is ok. LLorente and Torres are good back up for Villa.

    I expect Mata will break into the team by 2014 (he was one of the few players that actually played well for Spain at the Olympics) and Martinez may do. Replacing Xavi will be the biggest issue for Spain but Fabregas can do a job and at 27 will be at his peak then.

    On Argentina.

    Going forward they have strength in depth and will undoubtedly score a lot of goals. Defensively there are big question marks. You don't win a World Cup with a weak defence - unless you are Brazil.

    On Uruguay

    They were awful at the Olympics despite being talked about as one of the favourites for the tournament - certainly by you. I think they are in a similar position to Spain but with fewer quality players coming through. They probably peaked at the last World Cup and Copa.

    On Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

    We discussed this last week. Japan and Mexico may have a couple of players that are better than the best English ones. But as a team they are not as good as England. Results and rankings confirm this but you seem to be ignoring them.

    I will make a prediction which is almost certainly not bold. Mexico will get knocked out at the last 16 round at the next World Cup - like they always do.

  • Comment number 15.


    You speak lots of sense.

    Also, Chelsea just signed a Spanish right back, will be interesting to see how he gets on - with the form ivanovic is in though it could be a while before we see him

  • Comment number 16.

    @12 yakubusdiet

    Even if this was the case there is only 2 years between an Olympics and a World Cup so the past their best argument is not really valid.

    Basically Nigeria and Cameroon excelled in a lower standard competition but when it came to the World Cup they were simply not good enough. Just as Mexico won the Olympics this year but will probably lose in the last 16 round at the next World Cup.

  • Comment number 17.


    I agree with most of what you say, but not even Brazil have ever won a World Cup with a weak defence; they've had some dodgy goalkeepers, that's true, but even so their goals-against ratio is better than that of traditionally defence-minded nations such as Italy or Germany (or indeed England).

    By the way, Yakubu's diet appears to consist mainly of tranquilisers, so I wouldn't take his opinions too seriously...

  • Comment number 18.

    @17 WalkingMzungu

    Haha yes weak may have been a bit strong. The Brazilian defences in 1994 and 2002 (the World Cups I have actually seen them win) were certainly not great but they were good enough and of course going forward they were superb.

    Watching Brazil at the Olympics they will certainly have to improve their defence dramatically if they are to be realistic contenders in 2014.

  • Comment number 19.

    @14 Baggios Ponytail

    "Results and Rankings" prove England's superiority to Japan and Mexico?

    Japan are the Asian champions, and won their continental final against a decent Australia team and of course South Korea.

    Mexico are CONCACAF's champions, scoring four goals in the final against the USA team which drew 1-1 with England at the World Cup.

    In contrast, the only competition England has won in the last forty six years is the Home International Championship - and that was abolished 28 years ago.

    As for Mexico getting knocked out in the last 16 of the World Cup, yes the last two tournaments have seen them knocked out by Argentina at that point.

    But Mexico has participated in the last 8 Copa Americas as an invited North American team, for reasons which have everything to do with TV money. And if you ignore last year's edition (in which they used their Olympic team) in those seven tournaments they have finished runners-up twice and third twice.

    In other words, even aside from their own continental championship, for the last two decades Mexico has been doing better in the South American championships than England does in the Euros! And they're not even in South America!

    The FIFA rankings are distorted at present, because Brazil and Mexico have fielded their Under-23 team in full internationals to better prepare for the 2014 World Cup.

  • Comment number 20.

    di maria aguero

    or something like that...

  • Comment number 21.

    Would Argentina prefer a fit, fully recovered Aguero to link up with them or an injured player who may have recoved in time for a cameo in the second of two games? Got to question the logic really. It is not as if there are not other quality forwards amongst Argentina's ranks! I think it a really poor decision on behalf of the coach and the AFA.

  • Comment number 22.

    @13 - David_Beckhams_Latest_Haircut

    "Where I accept that Spain played poorly at the World Cup- their youth teams have still out performed every other youth side in the world for at least a decade now"

    Not true. They lost the latest under-20 World Cup against Brazil, who went on to win, and the time before that they lost to Italy. Within this decade you talk about, Spain have never won it with it being Argentina and Brazil several times and once by Ghana. In the under-17 World Cup, Spain have not won it at all for the history of its existence. The closest the have come is losing two finals. One to Brazil and one to Nigeria. In fact, within this decade you say, Nigeria and Brazil have reached the final the same times as Spain, but they have won one of them each. Mexico have won two.

    Everyone assumes Spain's once in a history success will continue, it will not as frankly their success has been more down to luck than quality. People should learn to praise those that deserve it.

  • Comment number 23.

    @3 and @14

    Why are some people so determined to say Spain will not do well in 2014? Too many jumping on this bandwagon of them being too old without actually looking at the facts.

    Yes Casillas will be 33, but this isnt a problem for a keeper. Anyway, Valdes, Reina and in particular De Gea are all younger.
    In defense you will have Pique at 27, Ramos at 28, Albiol 28 and Abeloa at 31. Throw in Alba who will only be 25 and Chelsea new and promising Azpilicuenta who will be 24 and that is a more than decent defense. Add to the mix the much coveted Javi Martinez who will only be 25 and can play CB or CM and I think they will be fine.
    In midfield, in 2 years you will have Fabregas (27), Iniesta (30), Alonso (32), Busquets (26), Silva and Navas both 28 and Cazorla at 29.
    Up front you will have a revitalized Torres at only 30. Behind him Mata, Negredo, Soldado and Llorente are all younger.
    Add to this the continual conveyor belt of talent coming out of Barca ( Alcantara, Tello, Cuenca etc etc ) then I really dont see where this argument of them being too old is coming from ?
    Perhaps its just wishful thinking?

  • Comment number 24.

    At 13:18 27th Aug 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    @14 Baggios Ponytail

    "Results and Rankings" prove England's superiority to Japan and Mexico?

    Japan are the Asian champions, and won their continental final against a decent Australia team and of course South Korea.

    Mexico are CONCACAF's champions, scoring four goals in the final against the USA team which drew 1-1 with England at the World Cup.

    In contrast, the only competition England has won in the last forty six years is the Home International Championship - and that was abolished 28 years ago.

    As for Mexico getting knocked out in the last 16 of the World Cup, yes the last two tournaments have seen them knocked out by Argentina at that point.

    But Mexico has participated in the last 8 Copa Americas as an invited North American team, for reasons which have everything to do with TV money. And if you ignore last year's edition (in which they used their Olympic team) in those seven tournaments they have finished runners-up twice and third twice.

    In other words, even aside from their own continental championship, for the last two decades Mexico has been doing better in the South American championships than England does in the Euros! And they're not even in South America!

    The FIFA rankings are distorted at present, because Brazil and Mexico have fielded their Under-23 team in full internationals to better prepare for the 2014 World Cup.

    Japan beat Australia and South Korea to become Asian Champions - the fact that Uzbekistan got to the semi finals and were hammered by Australia 6-0 says it all really.

    If England were moved to CONCACAF I expect they would be champions on a regular basis. The USA beat the mighty Jamaica and Panama to get to the final of the last CONCACAF Cup - need I say more?

    Oh and Mexico have being knocked out at the last 16 round in the last 5 World Cups (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010).

  • Comment number 25.

    @23 maclean

    I'm not sure where I have said I don't think Spain will do well in 2014. They will probably be favourites going into the next World Cup. There are perhaps more questions about Spain than there were before the last World Cup but they will undoubtedly be strong contenders.

  • Comment number 26.

    there's a shot line that says I think Sabella was right to call up Aguero. I wouldn't go that far - I have no way of judging the medical necessities of the player.

    The piece is about an understanding of the motives that led Sabella to call him up - as I say at the top, his position is understandable, but then so is that of Mancini.
    It would take an informed and unbiased medical opinion to define who should win this tug of war.

    About the August round of friendlies, they are on their way out - to the relief of club managers.

  • Comment number 27.

    @25 BaggiosPonytail

    Sorry, previous blog should have been directed to @3 and @9, not yourself.

  • Comment number 28.

    I don't know where this huge doubt over Spain is coming from. They have a good team and as one older player goes, so a younger player arrives. In midfield, Xavi will be on his way in the next couple of years, but then Fabregas will fill his position and Alcantara will take Fabregas' position on the bench. Puyol may be on his way out, but his position at CB has been filled by a more central role for Ramos and Spain still have Arbeloa, Azpilicueta, Albiol etc. to play in defence.
    As for the forward line, Torres looks to be coming back to his best, and even if he misses out, Llorente, Soldado, Negredo...or even Silva? The Euros showed that Spain can win without a striker.
    Anyone who thinks Spain will be nowhere in 2014 has been blinded by a poor showing at the Olympics; one must remember that those players are young and still learning the Spanish way to play, and perhaps too much was expected.
    I for one think the Olympics is going to have little bearing in 2 years time. The only big question about 2014 for me is Brazil. I can't work out if they're a good side or not.

  • Comment number 29.

    The line in your post about the August friendlies being on their way out is excellent news Tim! Never understood the use/purpose of them.

  • Comment number 30.


    Spain u21 team stats:

    Spain u19 team stats:

    How that amount of winning is down to 'luck' is absolutely beyond me...

  • Comment number 31.

  • Comment number 32.

    @23 and @28
    You have got where I'm going in terms of conveyer belts. You can't replace Xavi with Santi Cazorla or even Fabregas without a reduction in passing quality and a subtle change in the model. As soon as you replace Xavi and Xabi Alonso with Cazorla and Javi Martinez you are starting to use inferior players.

    I agree that Spain is the finished article and Argentina is a project. But Argentina has good players at their peak all around the pitch. Spain's special players are veterans, and their deputies - even Fabregas - are not world-beaters.

  • Comment number 33.

    Yea, Fabregas is a rubbish player. Pastore is way better.

    I don't think there are too many people doubting Spain's chances for 2014, it's mainly coming from that clown Yakubusdiet.

    At least he keeps it interesting by changing his attack-line every couple of weeks. I enjoy how he has gone quiet on Uruguay as they don't fit in with his assertion that Spain are now useless because they didn't win the Olympic football tournament.

  • Comment number 34.

    @30 - David_Beckhams_Latest_Haircut

    My point still stands. Being the best in Europe is not being the best in the world, and we all agree the latter is more important. With all this success in Europe, they still have some way to go in the world, of which they have not been outperforming every other youth side for the past decade.

    And apologies but I believe I did not specify that my point about luck was aimed at the latest senior team.

  • Comment number 35.

    @32 yakubusdiet

    Of course the players who will eventually replace the likes of Xavi and Alonso will almost certainly not be as good. But these replacements are not going to be poor and as I said earlier will do a job.

    Argentina will need to improve their defence significantly over the next two years to win the World Cup. Is that possible? Of course. Which is why they will probably be one of the few teams with a realistic chance of winning the tournament.

    The difference between Spain and Argentina is that Spain have to maintain their form and introduce a couple of new faces in the next two years. Argentina need to get a better 'keeper and at least a couple of better defenders to stand a realistic chance.

  • Comment number 36.

    Club or country, after watching Argentina recently, the players definitely appear to have the cohesion and willingness to play, that is needed before a team even thinks of being successful. It is little wonder Sabella feels the need to assemble his full squad irrespective of whether a layer is fit or not.

    I believe Argentina's problem up front, centres around fitting the players in and with what formation. They do lack depth at the back, which is a far greater problem for Sabella.

    At this time, I don't think there is any great need to be a settled team with a rigid formation. All he needs to know right now is, who apart from one or two suprises will be around to make his squad barring injuries.

  • Comment number 37.

    Spain, Argentina, Brazil and Germany will contest the next World Cup.


    The winner will come from those four. Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Uruguay... A couple of these may do well but they won't be in the Final.

  • Comment number 38.

    @37 Joan_Burton

    Italy will be in the mix too but the four teams you mention are undoubtedly the favourites - Brazil perhaps largely becuase of home advantage.

  • Comment number 39.

    Way too early before anyone writes Spain off but at the same time it's unwise to think of Spain 2010 or 2012 being the same in 2 years time.

    If anyone thinks that replacing individual players with a 'good players' means that it will have the same effect, it is not gauranteed. There have been many successful teams down the years who have gone to the next tournament with replacements who man for man were superior, yet they failed.

    One of the major problems for a successful team, is when do they replace players. Spain have been so successful that many of their second string players will not have had the necessary experience. Friendlies and walkovers in qualifiers does not replicate tournament play.

    The reluctance to play without a striker in the Euros is a telling factor, Del Bosque obviously did not think he could replicate Villa, otherwise he would of had one in his squad for the job. There is the proof of what Del Bosque thinks of the ridiculous notion that important players can be replaced easily.

  • Comment number 40.


    Agree that Brazil are only in there as they are hosts - although they do have a number of players who have the potential to push on a lot in the next two years.

    Not so sure about Italy. Over the last decade they have succeeded when Pirlo was fit and failed when he was not... They have a lot of decent players but I really can't see them winning it - I would put them in the same bracket as Portugal and France.


    No disputing that Spain face problems and challenges. But the players they will have wi still be a far better mix than any other country in my opinion.

    I really hope we get to see Argentina v Spain, could be a classic.

  • Comment number 41.

    34 MoronITO:

    To say that Spain wins because of luck rather than quality makes you a moronOTE.

  • Comment number 42.

    The comments seem to be a lot about Spain! For those interested Argentina's next world cup qualifier (without Sergio Aguero as mentioned above) is against Paraguay in Cordoba, Argentina. The Paraguayans have a wonderful record in Argentina having not lost in a World Cup Qualifier since 1973!

    They are likely to included Jonathan Fabbro an Argentine by birth who recently took Paraguayan nationality and was the star player in their last friendly against Guatemala. The provisional Paraguay squad is here (foreign call ups only):

  • Comment number 43.

    @41 - AntonioSaucedo

    Oh really? So Spain in the last World Cup were not lucky to get an offside goal against Portugal? Were not lucky that Paraguay had a legitimate goal disallowed? Were not lucky Chile got a man sent off in the first half because of a Torres dive? The list goes on and if this is not luck, what is it? Fate? God being Spanish?

  • Comment number 44.

    Henriquez and RVP are part of the plan to ditch Rooney, who has underperformed for a number of years now (highlighted by hs awful performances for England when he does not have top class creative midfielders to provide - England have lots of grafters/buzzers but no creative players).

    Cashing in on him beore other clubs fully realise this would be good business.

  • Comment number 45.

    @44 Chris

    I understand the frustration of Rooney under performing for the last couple of games as I am a UTD fan. However, it is rather harsh to say he was under performing last season with 27 goals in the league and 35 overall.

    And there seems to be a lot of negativity regarding England and too much positive from the Asian (and I am East Asian) teams and the likes of Uruguay and Mexico.

    Regarding the Asian teams; at players' peak, age 26-30, most cannot compete physically against bigger teams. Although technically gifted and physical part of the game becoming lesser relevant, most Japanese or S. Korean still cannot compete as well in the bigger leagues. Apart from Kagawa, whom I highly rated, non of the other Japanese players are in the so called big clubs, not even Honda. You will see that most Asian countries perform well at Under 23 age group but will almost always fall short at older level, I can only see them at last 16 at the very most. Same goes to Mexico, they will do well but you can't see them go further than quarters in World Cup. Uruguay are very good but I can't see them go further than the last four as well. And these are very optimistic prediction.

    Regarding England, I believe they have been relatively unlucky over the past 10 years. You have the 2002 world cup where Beckham, central figure then, broke his metatarsal just before the competition. Again in 2004, Rooney was playing some incredible football and he got injured at the last group game. And 2006 they got to the Quarters with many injuries in the side. Only 2008, (McClaren era) and 2010 that I agreed they were poor. In 2012, again many injuries prior to the competition and with the media coverage on Terry and Rio Ferdinand. To be honest, I think if England have a fit squad, they can compete at the highest level providing that they get games together as a unit. You still have the likes of Wilshere, Smalling, Wellbeck, Jones, Cleverly, Walker, Betrand, Sturridge, Rodwell, Gibbs (and I am sure their are few names I have not mentioned), most of whom have not played a lot of youth championship at their prime as they were called up by the senior squad too early. What England needs to understand is that they are pushing their players too early into the senior squad and have not let the younger players gel and develop together as a team in the youth competition. People seem to forget they perform very well in the 2007 and 2009 U 21 European Championship. You look back and you can always see that England have always wanted to find that prodigal son, '98 Owen, 2000 Gerrard, '02 Lampard, J. Cole, Rio, '04 Terry, Rooney, '06 Walcott, and the list goes on. So if England were to perform at the level where it is reflected on their rankings, the F.A. will need to nurture them rather than forcing them on the big stages.

  • Comment number 46.

    I also agree with Sabella on taking Aguero with the team, it does not matter if he plays or not but for the sake of the national team, then having him on board will give them time to gel and learn tactically what the coach wants from the team. I understand that it is unfair to the clubs, but that is for the respective football governing bodies to decide on how they would like to balance the Club and Country tug of war. And for that matter, I just want to know how much the national team gets from winning any of these competition? Or does FIFA just takes everything while not contributing anything to both Club and National Level? I am very curious on how international team make their money. Does it solely come from respective sports governing bodies? I understand that many won't appreciate this view but what exactly has FIFA done for the sport in the past 20 years? May be just, god knows how many, corruption cases they have had.

  • Comment number 47.

    re Aguero - can any national manager trust a club manager? After the ludicrous situation with Bale Sabella has every right to call up a vital player who could well be the difference between him getting the sack or not. Mancini knew what he was getting in to when he signed a South American international so it's time for him to just shut up and get on with it.

  • Comment number 48.

    I also understand that players should be proud to represent their countries, but without incentives, who would want to perform at their highest level. The reason why you see South Americans, Asians, and Africans put their heart and soul out for their teams are not just purely their pride, but also to get notice by big clubs and get their career going. This is not just a game, this is for their and their families well being as well.

  • Comment number 49.

    I cannot believe how much Spain bashing is going on here. I hate watching spain the same as i hate watching barcelona but even i admite they are the two most gifted sides i have ever seen.

    And as for the dribble that some people are saying about Spain's age. Xavi is getting on, puyol iniesta and maybe Villa, but the youth they have far beat England's own. Pastore, pedro just to name two. And compared with england they have a young team.
    When you consider Englands best are Gerrard(injury prone) Cole, lampard and Terry (old) wilshere(injured for a year) and Rooney whose so good that he was dropped to the bench for RVP.
    England are Quarter finalists at best, spain will be near the finals like argentina, brazil and germany, one of them will probably win it. And mexico are again fairly average with a couple of standout players

  • Comment number 50.


    "And as for the dribble that some people are saying about Spain's age. Xavi is getting on, puyol iniesta and maybe Villa, but the youth they have far beat England's own. Pastore, pedro just to name two"

    P... Pastore is Argentinian?

  • Comment number 51.

    I always thought argentina's fortunes will revolve around gago(having watched during beijing olympics) n they missed him during the last world cup,they had no midfield organiser ala xavi,spain will be lost without him and barca too, now with gago and a big home support i can c argentina winning it...As for the olympics not being a great reflector i guess we forget spain with xavi in midfield started to rule the rooster by winning gold at sydney olympics and those english boys mentioned none is a regular in the premiership.

  • Comment number 52.

    As a long time football fan I understand the point of views of most posters but statistically when a World Cup is held in Europe a European team wins it and when its held in South America a South American team wins it this is a fact anyone can look up and I don't see it changing in 2014 as even the great Brazilian side containing Pele did not produce the goods in Europe.

  • Comment number 53.

    @51 Saffa till i die

    Spain actually won silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

    @52 garyadams1973

    Brazil have definitely produced the goods in Europe - World Cup 1958 in Sweden with a team including a very young Pele.

  • Comment number 54.

    Argentina is one of the few teams that can prevent Spain from winning the WC in 2014 without having to cowardly park the bus like Portugal (in 1012, 2012), Germany, Netherlands, France, you know, the top teams in the world. It's not because of their quality, which they possess in abundance, but because of their not being afraid of the best team in history, even after witnessing what happened to Italy, one of the only teams since 2008 to have tried to play Spain like real men and not like scared little beeatches who finish games with 30% ball possession (yes, even Paraguay fits this description). Face it, y'all, the tiqui-taca is the best thing that's happened to football in 35 years, but, paradoxically, also the worst because of the bus-parking tactics cowardly opponents use to stop it. Spain's games are usually not attractive for the neutral public because of the opponents' cowardice and, unfortunately, I don't see that trend changing after the destruction of the Italians. Again, only Argentina, and perhaps Brazil and Uruguay, have the guts and the quality to stop the Spanish juggernaut. Will they? Don't think so. Spain will tiki-taka their way to winning the 2014 WC. And all those Spain-haters out there, better prepare new explanations for Spain's superiority other than luck or bad officiating, or any other rationalization that prevents you from appreciating footballing greatness.

  • Comment number 55.

    @54 - AntonioSaucedo

    I think you are getting a little carried away, come back and talk when Spain win 5 more World Cups. These following countries have footballing greatness; Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina and Uruguay. You Spaniards are nothing more than a negative one-off speck on the beautiful game, do not get your hopes up in 2014.

  • Comment number 56.


    I agree I may be getting a bit carried away with Spain's chances of winning in 2014, but my hopes aren't unfounded based on the historic streak they're on.

    And as for Spain being a mere one-hit wonder? I beg to differ, blind Moronito.

  • Comment number 57.

    Very good blog and the best i've read on the BBC website for a long time, When you look through the Argentina Squad it's maybe in the top 3 squads in international football along with Spain and Brazil ? They have some some genuine world class players and them along with Brazil are probably the most likely to end Spain's domination, because every other Country in Europe are years behind the Spanish and coincidence or not they three countries all play the same style of football.

  • Comment number 58.

    @ 19 Yakubusdiet: you're being pretty selective with results here. Mexico just lost, at home, to the USA. Whilst the USA's draw with England was mainly thanks to a goalkeeping howler. Besides which, it was over 2 years ago. If you want to bring up results from 2010, then you could argue that Italy are rubbish because they drew with New Zealand and lost to Slovakia, and France lost to Mexico and South Africa.

    And being COCACAF champions isn't that impressive given the calibre of opponents (Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Jamaica, et al). In comparison, England are unbeaten after 90 minutes in their last 7 games against Italy (twice), France, Norway, Belgium, Ukraine and Sweden.

    In addition, we're talking about results, not winning competitions. In a world cup year there is only one winner, but that doesn't mean every other side is absolute rubbish. Often there's only a dodgy call from a ref, a single mistake, fluke goal, or a missed penalty that is the difference between winning and not winning a tournament, therefore results in general are far more indiciative as to the quality of a country.

    2002 is a classic example. Were Germany the second-best side in the world that year? Don't be daft. England beat them 5-1 only 9 months earlier. And Turkey and South Korea had good runs and some good results, but they were never the 3rd and 4th-best sides in the world either. Nor was Bulgaria in 1994. You need to be looking at the bigger picture, as FIFA have done in awarding England 3rd in their rankings, despite not winning a tournament since 1966.

    I can only think of England losing by 2 or more goals in a competitive match twice in the past 20 years. England are always there or thereabouts. And even when they're getting knocked out of tournaments, it's often on penalties (90, 96, 98, 06, 08). Say what you like but England quite simply are not the b-grade pub side that many trolls and whingers on this site make them out to be.

  • Comment number 59.

    England are clearly not a pub-side because any team that can field footballers like Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, Terry, Defoe, A.Cole, etc, can't be so. But England are not a world power either, at least not a first-tier squad. I think they need to find or re-find a style and mold their players accordingly. Easier said than done, I know, but not impossible. One thing is clear to me: England's display in Poland-Ukraine is not the way to go.

  • Comment number 60.

    Wonderful Article, Thanks!

    1. Aguero belongs to Argentina, not to City (even though I love City)

    2. Argentina always had GREAT teams in world cup! Will also have a great team for 2014!
    I've being supporting Argentina since 1986, They always disappointing us!
    NO doubt Argentina will again FLOP!!! :(

    3. Tevez is in good form physically, but you can never trust him mentally, so safe option is to keep him OUT of Argentina squad!!!

  • Comment number 61.

    I can't see the point of calling up Aguero if the guy can't even train.

  • Comment number 62.

    3.At 10:57 27th Aug 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    I've come to the conclusion that you are simply a WUM. I applaude and congratulate you sir!

    "Spain's next generation was found wanting at the Olympics, and can now be discounted." - Yes you're right, in 2 years time they'll get rid of pique, iniesta, alonso, villa, torres and simply add in their olympic players!!

    "At 66 Beckenbauer is probably still a better player than Martinez." - Yeah you're right. The reason Bayern pulled out of a 30m deal for him is because they asked Franz to come out of retirement. I think city have also tabled a 40m bid for Der Kaiser as well.

    "Argentina's likely squad for 2014 is more promising than any previous one they have fielded at a World Cup." - It may do, but defensively they look atrocious.

    "In fact, Argentina's senior squad has in effect been playing together for practically as long as Spain's." - Except they're nowhere near as good. There's little balance in the Argentina team.

    One final point on the Olympics. You give it far too much precedence. I've already pointed out numerous examples of how the Olympics winners does not translate into WC winners. Nigeria in WC 98 after winning in Atlanta 96 as a prime example.

  • Comment number 63.

    9.At 12:11 27th Aug 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    Here is how Spain's possible first choice eleven would compare:

    Casillas (33)
    Ramos (28) Puyol (36) Pique (27) Alba (25)
    Busquets (25) Xabi Alonso (32)
    Xavi (34) Iniesta (30) Silva (28)
    Villa (32)

    You are a clown. Why would puyol be playing when they had Ramos in the centre and arbeloa on the right? Javi Martinez can play the CB role as well.

    Fabregas will be playing more games throughout as well.

    Why would Villa get ahead of Torres? They normally play together anyway!

  • Comment number 64.


    "Sabella has every right to call up a vital player who could well be the difference between him getting the sack or not."

    And Mancini has every right to voice his opinion about a vital player would could well be the difference between HIM getting the sack or not. City have invested a lot in Aguero and should at least be consulted when decisions are made about international call up, particularly as they will be much better informed about his medical condition than Argentina's national team. In these circumstances telling Mancini to "shut up and get on with it" is just childish.


    Its refreshing (and sadly very unusual) to read a well thought through and realistic assessment of the English National team - so thanks for that. No doubt some of the usual suspects will be on here soon to try to shoot down your opinions, so my advice is to just ignore their one-eyed rantings and keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 65.

    @22 "Spain's success has been more down to luck than quality"

    Seriously? What planet are you on !! So the 4-0 demolition of Italy was just down to luck was it?

    To paraphrase Gary Player : the more they play together, the luckier they get !!

  • Comment number 66.

    @3 @22

    You said "Del Bosque now knows that he has no young generation to turn to, and that he has to try to defend the World Cup with the oldest side in World Cup history."

    First of all I would be willing to bet a lot of money that this will not be anywhere close to the oldest side in World Cup history. Secondly, if you go back just six years to the 2006 World Cup, Italy won the tournament with 11 players aged 29-36. So not only is your statement factually wrong, it has been proven that World Cups can be won by experienced players, not just those in the so-called "peak of their powers"!

    Also your comment about Spain being lucky is just ridiculous.

  • Comment number 67.

    @yakubusdiet - please could you name 12 left backs better than Ashley Cole?

    obviously Spain will challenge for the WC 2014 - ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

    in the build up to most tournaments, its easy to identify the usual suspects - Brazil, Germany, Spain, Argentina, England, Italy, Portugal, France, Holland. i dont get what the dispute is? when was the last time the WC was won by a team outside of the ones ive mentioned? 1950 i believe - Uruguay. i still think it will be one of the 1st four that i mentioned but you cant rule the others out.

  • Comment number 68.

    Based on players at their disposal the dark horses for the 2014 World Cup would be Belgium for me.

    Ivory Coast might also cause a bit of an upset, they'll have a very strong midfield but perhaps a weak defence.

    But the winner will come from the Big Four.

  • Comment number 69.

    Good stuff Tim, if a little late - I can hardly remember the game now!

    Messi's form against Germany is ominous for the rest, and Aguero's movement clearly makes a difference. It's a difficult one for the manager as a more solid-looking 4-4-2 is a good shout I think, but doesn't allow him to make the most of all his attacking options. The likes of Lavezzi and Tevez would walk into any other international side IMO. I even thought Sosa had a great 45 minutes before Aguero came on. I liked the look of their shape against Germany and I felt they defended better as a side.

    The Spain debate is beyond boring and totally senseless. Top sides don't replace full teams overnight unless they're in crisis. That isn't happening with Spain and new players will be blooded gradually. Did Alba look like a world beater 2 years ago? They have unbelievable strength in depth.

    Just because the players coming though aren't already as good as the likes of Xavi - the best Spanish player of all-time - doesn't mean they won't get better in the years to come. Their possession game and quality of passing will always give them a chance in the modern game.

  • Comment number 70.

    Casillas (33) / De Gea (24)

    Azpilicueta (26)/Montoya (23) Ramos (28) Pique (27) Alba (25)
    Busquets (25)/Martinez (26) Fabregas (27)
    Iniesta (30) Mata (26) Silva (28)

    Reserves (new guard): Muniain, Tello, Isco, Herrera, Adrian Lopez, Romeu
    Reserves (old guard): Reina, Valdes, Xavi, Alonso, Villa, Soldado, Negredo, Arbeloa, Cazorla
    I'm not saying it's good enough to win again, but it's not a bad pool is it and I only count 2 starters over 30....

  • Comment number 71.

    If Sergio Aguero is not fully fit then why risk him? Why fly him thousands of miles for a match where he may not even play? Instead try a new up and coming player and let him cut his teeth in the midst of battle. Besides Paraguay are hardly world beaters, not exactly do or die situation for Argentina..
    On another note, how is it that Tevez cannot get into the Argentinian team?
    I'm sure that he can be accomodated and make Argentina even more potent. Just like Brazil, Argentina have problems in their defence.
    Thirdly, why did Ney Franco not take the Brazil team to the Olympics? He should have been allowed to take the U-20 WC champs to the Olympics and attempt to win the gold. Ney knew his players the best. Instead Mano Meneses tried to interfere and claim the glory which didn't quite materialise.

  • Comment number 72.

    68.At 13:23 28th Aug 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:
    Based on players at their disposal the dark horses for the 2014 World Cup would be Belgium for me.

    If they even qualify for the tournament!!

  • Comment number 73.

    Surely the number one consideration in all of this is whether travelling would help or hinder Aguero's injury. Whilst searching for an angle on this Blog you have forgot the most important consideration. I cannot see this helping Aguero nor the physio's, so then he doesn't travel. Whilst valiant points about the difficulties of being a national team coach, the single most important consideration never appears in the blog? Which renders the arguement and your blog pointless.

  • Comment number 74.

    72. At 14:28 28th Aug 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:
    68.At 13:23 28th Aug 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:
    Based on players at their disposal the dark horses for the 2014 World Cup would be Belgium for me.

    If they even qualify for the tournament!!


    Indeed. The European qualification results are ridiculous with some groups having three quality teams and others like Groups E and G... Well... Have a look for yourself...

    Belgium were drawn with Germany and Turkey in the qualifying for the Euros so they've had a tough run at it.

  • Comment number 75.

    I have to laugh at some of the comments on this. Ashley Cole not in the top 12 left-backs in the world? Is that a serious comment?

    @74, I wouldn't get too carried away about Belgium. Yes, it's certainly a golden generation in comparison to recent Belgian teams, but I get the feeling more is made of some of their players simply because they're Belgian. Would Mirallas, Defour, Witsel, Mignolet or Mehrtens be mentioned if they were Spanish or Argentinian? I don't think any of those players would make the squad to be honest.

    Defensively Belgium have 3 quality players in Kompany, Vermaelen and Vertonghen, but the two most potent attacking options at the minute are Hazard and Fellaini, completely different players that would dictate a different game plan and tactics to play to either of their particular strengths. Certainly, if Lukaku fulfills his undoubted potential it would favour a quicker, more direct style that would impact negatively upon Hazard.

    On the subject of Hazard, what do you make of him Tim, in comparison to the brightest talents in South America?

  • Comment number 76.

    @65 - Big4r_a_bore & @66 - On_Me_Head

    Yes seriously. Read comment 43. You chose to mention the Euro 2012 final, the only match they played well in the whole competition and one which they did not really outdo a powerhouse to be honest. Prandelli was stupid enough to play a diamond in midfield against Spain's 6 midfielders. He chose Chiellini who had already had injury problems and then brought on Motta that was out before due to injury. Beating this team is not that big an achievement, considering they were lucky to draw with a fresh Italy playing a packed midfield at the start of the tournament. You forgot how they were lucky they beat Portugal on penalties and have you forgotten the penalty Croatia did not get against them?

    Lets be honest, Spain won the last World Cup on the back of scoring one goal, dubiously and with the help of the referee sometimes like the offside goal against Portugal, and then passing the ball sideways and back for the rest of the game. When the adversary looked to dispossess them, they would fall and the referee would oblige them with a foul and this would not make things fairer for the opposition either, like the red card against Chile or Portugal. It is not as if Spain had to play tough opposition either. Germany had to go through England and Argentina to get to Spain, who they would have beat too if they had not inexplicably bent over. Holland had to go through Brazil and Uruguay. Spain had to beat Portugal, with the afore mentioned offside goal, and had to beat Paraguay, with Paraguay not getting a legitimate goal allowed, to then get Germany.

    Please tell me how you consider this not to be lucky, because if Spain were sure they were going to get helped then you are right, it is not luck, it is fixing.

  • Comment number 77.



  • Comment number 78.


    I'm not at all getting carried away with Belgium. I'm just pointing out that they have many youthful players who are playing excellent for their clubs recently. If they find a way to play together they could be a force - much like Brazil and Argentina.

  • Comment number 79.

    Moony (73) thinks the whole article is pointless because there is no reference to Aguero's physcial aptitude to travel - I dealt with this in an earlier response - it is medical information that is not in the public domain, so it's not really the point.

    Ground covered includes;
    relationship between club and national team managers
    ressurgence of Argentina sice the end of last year
    shape of the Argentina side (attack and defence) for the next World Cup.

    1 of 2. Either the above issues have no relevance in a blog on South American football.
    Or Moony was having a bad day with his reading comprehesion skills.

  • Comment number 80.

    Looking forward to World Cup qualifiers next week in Europe and South America. The Friday afternoon kick offs are a bit of a scunner for many, but luckily i have fabricated and used my excuses for work.
    This double header in the conmebol area should separate the wheat from the chaff. Paraguay have the most to lose as they are languishing at the bottom of the table and need to pick up 6 points or be left out of contention.

    Ecuador have Bolivia at home then Uruguay way. 4 points would be an optimistic haul. 3 points more likely anything less a disaster.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think its a good thing, he can sit in the UK having barbecues all day and moping around his mansion, or he can go out and build team chemistry with his national team.

    Its a no brainer and Mancini is just a big girl who never seems to stop moaning.

  • Comment number 82.

    Moronito - while I do not disagree with you that Spain have rode their luck at times, no side can win 3 tournaments without doing so. Spain played more games than anyone else over the past 3 tournaments so they should have had their fair share of fortunate calls.

    Paraguay gave them a very good game in 2010 and had a good goal disallowed, but I also remember Spain needing to re-take a scored penalty, which they then missed. Doesn't sound like the work of a conspiracy or a team benefitting from bias IMO.

    Spain have had their fair share of poor decisions in previous tournaments - some incidents off the top of my head to balance the argument...The Dutch assaults which went relatively unpunished in the 2010 final... The two perfectly good goals against South Korea in 2002 being disallowed... Henry clutching his face to win a late free-kick from which France scored in 2006. Perhaps they deserved a bit of luck.

  • Comment number 83.


    I must admit i am always fascinated by the South American qualifying system. I actually prefer the system, i kind of sorts out the men from the boys.

    Was there a particular reason why they ended up with a league format for the whole continent?

  • Comment number 84.

    On paper, Argentina's line up is awesome and to be feared. In practice, however, Argentina have not been a very consistent team in these qualifiers.

    They lost to Venezuela and only got a draw at home against Bolivia. They beat a naive Chilean team and a struggling Colombian team. It remains to be seen whether the last performance against Ecuador is an indication of better things to come or whether Messi will once again do one of his disappearing acts for the National Team.

    Hope they manage to work things out as an Argentina in full flow is very exciting to watch for football fans.

  • Comment number 85.

    @76 "It is not as if Spain had to play tough opposition either"

    They can only play the opponent they get at the time...they did, and they beat them so not sure what your point is. They won their group and then went on to win the World Cup. It doesn't really matter whether it's by 1-0 or 10-0, they won it and that's all that matters and seriously, who else was going to win it?

    Uruguay had an even easier run in the world cup (relatively speaking) but again, that wasn't their fault.

    If you want to mention luck, just look at Paraguay who got to the final of the last Copa America without winning a single match.

  • Comment number 86.

    83 - the one big group qualifying format came in in 1996 - it was a response to Brazil (as holders) not having to qualify for 98.
    No Brazil = less income
    Need for more income = provide more content.

    It has been the greatest thing to happen to national teams in the continent since the invention of the copa america in 1916. Previously there were long intervals between competitive games - this format gave the South Americans the type of celendar the Europeans take for granted. The likes of Ecuador and Venezuela have made massive strides since.

  • Comment number 87.


    You rightly talk about Argentina potentially changing their shape to accommodate the Aguero/Messi/Higuain axis and the dilemma that this presents given that they want to find space for Di Maria too, but what about Tevez? Is he out in the cold? Does he even get a look in? He's started the season fantastically well and looks like he's enjoying his football again.

  • Comment number 88.

    74.At 16:28 28th Aug 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:
    Indeed. The European qualification results are ridiculous with some groups having three quality teams and others like Groups E and G... Well... Have a look for yourself...

    Belgium were drawn with Germany and Turkey in the qualifying for the Euros so they've had a tough run at it.
    Well they're not difficult according to Yakubu's Diet, I mean a group with Belgium, Germany, Turkey or a knockout competition facing British Virgin Isles, Panama and Jamaica?

  • Comment number 89.

    @87 MarcusCrassus

    I was wondering about Tevez too. Obviously his falling out with Mancini is well publicised - does this have an impact on the coach of his national team?

    On the pitch Tevez always seems to be a team player and someone you would at least want in your squad.

  • Comment number 90.

    Argentina has been visibly improving in the last year, and a front half of Messi / Aguero / di Maria / Lavezzi / Pastore is quite a frightening prospect for 2014.

    And worse, for all the talk of a poor defence, they can pull back Mascherano to centre-back and of course have Zabaleta at right-back.

    I do bracket Spain up there with them, but Spain will either be geriatric or have to replace Xavi and Xabi Alonso with Mata and Martinez, neither of whom has contributed significantly to the three victorious senior tournaments.

    By the way Eduard Streltsov Ghost (named after a convicted rapist!!)
    Do you really think that a group containing Belgium and Turkey is more competitive than one with Mexico and USA?

    To be fair, Belgium now has good players, but their 2008-2012 collective performances have been a disgrace.

  • Comment number 91.


    I think the Tevez issue has been a long-running saga, when he used to play for Boca back in 2003/04 he tried to sue AFA (Arg FA) who wanted him to play for the U20s national team but he wanted to play for Boca in the World Club Cup.

    He ended up winning and got to go to play for Boca but I imagine the head of AFA Grondona wasn't too pleased about it, since then they have had fallings out including most recently in 2010 when he said he was injured for a friendly against Brazil and then popped up for City a few days later and scored twice. He wasn't called up for the next friendly in 2011 and Grondona said it was an 'attitude' problem. He wasn't called up for the Copa America (at first) but then managed to worm his way into the squad after having a one-to-one meeting with Batista to clear the air.

    Sabella is much stronger than Batista and I don't think he can be bothered with the trouble Tevez potentially brings, also he knows he has the AFA's support as Grondona clearly cant' stand him. If Sabella is still coach in 2014 I doubt we'll see Tevez at the World Cup.

  • Comment number 92.

    @90 yakubusdiet

    I can't believe you are still carrying on this argument.

    You say Argentina are as good as Spain.

    Spain won Euro 2012. Argentina did not get past the quarter finals of the 2011 Copa. Argentina and Spain can therefore not currently be put in the same bracket.

    You ask whether a group containing Belgium and Turkey is more competitive than one with Mexico and USA. Yes it is for a number of reasons.

    The Euro 2012 qualifying group also contained Germany.

    Only Germany in that group progressed to the Euro 2012 tournament (Turkey came second in the group and were knocked out in a playoff).

    Three teams from CONCACAF automatically qualified for the World Cup in 2010 - USA, Mexico and Honduras. In the final group of six teams were Trinidad and Tobago.

    Since 1994 USA and Mexico have qualified for every World Cup (Mexico probably would have in 1990 too if they hadn't been banned). In 1994 only Mexico qualified (as USA were hosts). The other teams to qualify have been Jamaica (1998), Costa Rica (2002 & 2006), Trinidad and Tobago (2006) and Honduras (2010). None of the other teams have progressed beyond the group stage.

    Belgium have not done well in the last few years but I would not call their performances a disgrace.


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